Eric Vial from Propellet France expects a slowdown in market development this year

New year, new opportunity to talk with pellet experts and professionals involved in the development of the certification scheme worldwide. 

Our first guest for 2023 is Eric Vial who is ex-president of the European Pellet Council and representative of the Propellet France (the ENplus® National Licenser in the country). Eric provides us with the latest updates from the local pellet market and gives important advice to the pellet suppliers.

Hello Eric, for how many years has ENplus® been present in the French market and what is the importance of the certification for the local producers and traders?

The first company to get ENplus® certified in France was the producer Alpin Pellets (in January 2013). Since then, ENplus® has evolved in our country, especially since our association became national licenser in 2014.

Local producers and traders consider the certification as a means to show the market that pellets reach the level of quality that allows stoves and boilers to work properly and efficiently. At the very beginning, becoming certified was mainly a way to differentiate your company from the non-certified producers, however, now, nearly all producers are certified. This is a very good point for our industry.

In the last few years, France reports steady growth in the sales of pellet appliances. Are now pellets considered to be a popular heating solution in the country?

For years, pellet heating was perceived as an alternative to other energies. Thanks to the support given by the state for the development of the renewable energies, pellets have become more popular.

The main change came when in 2018 the government decided to stop the subsidies for oil boiler installations and to stop the use of fossil fuel-based energies from 2022 (starting with the ban of oil boiler installations from 1st of July 2022). Now, instead of oil and gas, the main choice for the households is either heat pumps or wood, in particular wood pellets.

Based on your observations, are pellet consumers driven by price only or do they consider equally factors such as certification for quality, delivery, etc?

In my opinion, in “normal” market conditions, pellet consumers are first driven by price and then by a mix of local supply, certification and confidence in the supplier. In summer 2022, the main driver was availability of pellets (even if temperature was 35°C). The mix of factors following the price is not stable and depends on the situation/conjuncture and the consumer profile.

What is your prediction for the pellet market in France this year? What is your advice to the pellet professionals?

After what our industry experienced since the beginning of 2021, it is particularly complicated to make a prediction. Global energy market (gas and electricity in particular) is behaving erratically and brings a lot of instability to our market. This having been said, it is clear that in 2023 we will see a strong drop in pellet boilers and stoves sales because of the bad image given to our industry by the very high price increase of the last summer.

The demand of pellets to producers and traders may slow down a little or decrease because of previous overpurchasing in 2022 in combination with a lack of consumption due to the mild winter (if winter is not finally coming this year). On top of that, the climate of 2023-2024 season and the international political situation may change this prediction.

Some may say that there are opportunities to make business but my advice to the pellet professionals would be to continue to act with professionalism and to run no risk in order to secure their company, there are now too many uncertainties and instabilities in the business.